Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (Sept. 1) -- Dan Gilbert reportedly led way in Kyrie Irving trade

This morning’s headlines:

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Report: Gilbert pulled strings in Irving trade — The Boston Celtics will introduce their offseason All-Star additions, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, in a news conference this afternoon. Now that Irving’s trade has been finalized, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer digs into the deal and reports that Cavs owner Dan Gilbert — and not new GM Koby Altman — was steering Irving’s trade to Boston:

Koby Altman may be the latest person to call himself Cleveland Cavaliers general manager—the fourth in the past 12 years since Dan Gilbert bought the team—but multiple sources have told me that the Cavs owner was the one calling the shots on the trade that sent Irving to Boston, and he’s the one dealing with the fallout. Gilbert’s dysfunctional ways are old news. Gilbert himself joked during Altman’s introductory presser that his GMs have four-year presidential terms. “A state of organizational chaos is Gilbert’s M.O.,” one executive told me. “Gilbert thinks he’s the protagonist in the story of the Cavaliers, when, in reality, he’s the antagonist.”

Gilbert’s fingerprints were all over the drama that’s unfolded over the past week. Thomas’s health is what held up the deal, but according to multiple league sources with knowledge of Cleveland’s thought process, the unprotected Nets pick and Crowder were the pieces that Cleveland valued the most—those were the assets that got the deal done, not Thomas. The perception of the trade was that the Cavaliers and Celtics swapped franchise point guards, but for the Cleveland front office (and its owner), Thomas was the icing, not the cake.

But the Celtics wouldn’t have sweetened the pot with the Nets pick and Crowder if Thomas were 100 percent healthy, according to a source with knowledge of Boston’s thinking, nor could Cleveland have demanded such a package. Thomas’s injury was priced into the deal, in the sense that he didn’t have full value.

Multiple sources told me that Gilbert is operating under the assumption that LeBron will opt out of his contract next summer and leave Cleveland. So Gilbert and Altman targeted Irving trade packages that set up the franchise for the post-LeBron era, rather than the instant-gratification deals they’ve made over the past three years (e.g., trading first-rounders for Channing Frye or Kyle Korver). A front-office executive from another team inquiring about Irving told me that knowing LeBron was staying in Cleveland would have changed what the Cavs asked for in return for Kyrie. Though a wide range of league sources believe LeBron is LeGone, it’s not certain. Regardless, Cleveland doesn’t want to be caught flat-footed. The variety of assets included in Boston’s Irving offer allowed Cleveland to be competitive in 2017–18 while preparing for life after LeBron. Cleveland might have considered Thomas the third-most valuable incoming asset, but the team still wanted a healthy version of him.

Multiple sources with knowledge of Gilbert’s mind-set believe the Cavs owner cares deeply about how the deal will be seen today and in the future, both internally and across the league—Thomas’s health and a less enthusiastic James and Lue had Gilbert shook.

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Report: Pelicans trade Pondexter to Bulls — The Pelicans have eyes on making a serious run at the playoffs this season. As such, they’ve made a trade with the Bulls that sends Quincy Pondexter to Chicago for a future draft pick and, more importantly, some salary-cap room. Scott Kushner of the New Orleans Advocate has more:

After two absentee seasons, the New Orleans Pelicans are moving on from Quincy Pondexter.

The small forward was traded, along with an unprotected second-round draft pick, to the Chicago Bulls on Thursday, sources confirmed to The Advocate. The Vertical was first to report the news.

Pondexter underwent three knee surgeries since his last on-court appearance, during the 2015 playoffs. The former first-round pick was unable to return to the floor despite a variety of timetables and recovery schedules, prompting the franchise to trade him for a second time. It’s unclear whether he’ll be available to start the season for Chicago.

League sources indicated the trade was made to shed salary, so the Pelicans could free salary-cap space in hopes of signing a small forward able to contribute when training camp opens. Starting small forward Solomon Hill suffered a torn hamstring two weeks ago, forcing him to have surgery and miss six to eight months.

To get cap relief, the Pelicans opted to trade Pondexter rather than employ the stretch provision on rarely-used center Omer Asik’s contract; he’s set to earn nearly $25 million over the next three seasons. Thursday was the last day the provision could be used for the 2017-18 season.

Now, with the additional cap space, the Pelicans can add another piece.

On Wednesday, ESPN reported the Pelicans are attempting to bring back forward Dante Cunningham, who was also in talks with the Minnesota Timberwolves. At the time, New Orleans could only afford to pay Cunningham a veteran’s minimum contract.

The Pelicans also brought in veteran free agent forwards Josh Smith, Martell Webster and Chase Budinger for workouts this week, ESPN reported. None of them was employed by an NBA team last season.

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Report: Bucks plan to waive Hawes — In one of the more shrewd moves last season, the Bucks traded away the pricey contract of big man Miles Plumlee to the Charlotte Hornets for centers Spencer Hawes and Roy Hibbert. According to’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Bucks are looking to part with Hawes to help their salary cap flexibility:

In order to move beneath the luxury-tax threshold, the Milwaukee Buckswaived 7-footer Spencer Hawes, league sources told ESPN.

The Bucks will use the stretch provision to spread the balance of Hawes’ $6.2 million salary this season over three years, sparing the franchise the full salary-cap hit this year.

Hawes, 29, was traded to Milwaukee in a February deal with Charlotte. Once Hawes clears waivers, he will become an unrestricted free agent.

The Bucks are now $2.5 million under the tax threshold with 13 guaranteed contracts.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Kent Bazemore got a big honor from the city of Atlanta yesterday … Cavs owner Dan Gilbert vows to ‘never’ move the team … Just Klay Thompson, playing one-on-one with a dog … Victor Oladipo has some pretty impressive singing talent